Fiction: The Curious Incident Of The Drag-Queen In The Night-Time

Recently there was a late-night gig at a new club in Delhi. They did not have a designated place for getting ready, so after a little fretting, I agreed to get in drag at home and book a cab to the venue. It was the first time I was moving about publicly in drag, and I was understandably a little wary. For one, it might not be safe, especially late at night and alone in a big city. But more than physical safety, I was worried that residents of my neighborhood would catch me in drag and think I’m an ‘immoral’ person and force me to find a new home.

Anyway, I figured it was worth a shot, and I wanted to take the risk instead of living with my fears.

So I arranged the lighting I needed at home, comfortably laid out all my makeup, and set up the mirrors. Music playing in the background, and a little bowl of food beside me, I was having fun. Everything went smoothly until my face was painted on. That was 11 pm.

Subsequently, it was a circus.

The bell rang just as I was putting on my lashes. Weird timing, I thought to myself, but no way I’m going out like this. Whoever it is will go away. No such luck. The bell just kept ringing. And ringing. Bloody hell is someone dying? Tonight of all nights?? Couldn’t they pick a better day?

Muttering under my breath, and ignoring a steadily mounting headache, I carefully slipped on my gown. The bell was still buzzing, and it had been a straight ten minutes! Suddenly the phone rang loudly. Stumbling to quiet the noise, I saw that my neighbor Binny was calling. Of course, it was her pressing the bell, and now she had heard the phone ring, so I couldn’t ignore her anymore.

Sighing, I picked up. “Hey sweetie what’s up? Kind of bad timing yaar, actually I’m in the washroom, let me talk to you tomorrow okay??”

She replied, “Hi Kush ..okay… But once you’re done, please let me sit inside your home for half an hour?? I’m locked out of my house, mom forgot to leave the key…and it’s super hot on the stairs!”

Crap! What do I do now? Kush isn’t here sweetie, just a fierce looking creature called Kushboo, and you will faint on the hot staircase if I introduce you to her right now! I thought, wryly. Maybe I should just do that; at least I’ll be able to get to my gig on time if you faint.

Adding a dollop of fake sugar to my tone, I cackled, “of course darling, let me get out of here though, I’m having awful diarrhea, hahaha. Why don’t you go to the Twenty-four Seven nearby, I’ll call you as soon as I’m done. Okay? Bye!”
“Ummm ok but the thing is I have no money…” Binny tried to reply, but too late. I’d cut the call. Would have to figure out some solid excuse and make it up later.

Feeling like a bitch, I sent God a prayer for my soul as well as for Binny’s mom to come home fast so Kushboo could get to the club. Hurriedly, I pulled on my heels, brushed out my wig and wore the last pieces of jewelry. The bell-ringing had also stopped. Now for the difficult bit. The bird had to leave the nest.

Wringing my hands anxiously, I booked the Uber. He was five minutes away. Enough time to make sure the scene was clear.

First, I crawled to the balcony railing on all fours and peeked over at the road below. Hopefully, the opposite building’s tenants wouldn’t notice this blonde-haired diva spying on them. Or if they did, maybe they would think it was one of Kush’s many girlfriends. “Arey kya baat, Russian ladiz!”


The coast was clear. Everyone was probably asleep.

The Uber guy called. “Bhai saab mein pahuch gaya hu location pe”

Me: “Ha bhaiya aap please ekdum gate ka saamne aa jana”

Uber guy: “Haa paas mein hu, yahan parking nahi hai na”

Me: “Nahi bhaiya yeh chalees number ghar hai na, ekdum saamne tak aa jana”

After some argument, I managed to get the poor guy to park squarely in front of the house so that I could literally jump into the car from the gate.

Next stage: scour the staircase. Opening the door a tiny crack, I peeked out to see if Binny had gone. Empty! Ok here was my chance. Scrambling back to my room, I grabbed my phone and darted out the door, locking it quickly behind me.

Tiptoeing down the staircase, I was just thanking my stars when one of the building pets started howling. He could see me through the door-grill, and I tried my usual tactics to hush him up, but he just kept howling in terror! And then it hit me – doggie didn’t recognize me and was confused because I smelt familiar to him. Throwing caution to the winds (and also a few choice insults at the canine) I hurried downstairs before the building woke up and discovered Kush’s night-time visitor creeping away in the middle of the night.

Scrambling into the car, I didn’t even bother glancing at the man behind the wheel. Kushboo had left the building. That’s all that mattered. Sighing, in relief, I pulled out my powder puff and began dabbing away at my sweaty forehead to protect the makeup. Then I rearranged my wig.

Uber driver: “Madam, sahab nahi ayenge?”

Suddenly I was aware of the situation. Resignedly, I simply said, in my husky voice, “Nahi bhaiya, chal lo please, late ho raha hai”

Holding my breath, I waited for his shocked reaction. Was he going to ogle, comment… maybe laugh??

Without batting a single eyelid or saying a word, he revved the engine. And off we went.

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Kushboo is a drag artist and lawyer based in Delhi. She engages in rights-based work and also art to stimulate conversations. Irreverent of gender as a construct, Kushboo uses drag to illustrate the power of illusion and express her imagination. Instagram: @kushboothekween Facebook: /Kushboothekween

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